PH Service History: Giving it barge

Sad news: if you've always had a penchant for the idea of owning a Lexus LS400, one of the most impressive luxury cars of its era, for a grand or less, I'm afraid you might have missed the boat.

Granted, there are still a few slightly daggy-looking LSs kicking around at the thousand-pound mark. But the good ones are now starting to rise in value - as the appearance of one in the classifieds recently with a wince-inducing £9,000 price tag attests.

That's still silly money for an LS, of course, but even if you aren't willing to stretch quite that far, no longer is the original Lexus the bargain basement luxo-Shed it once was. A half-decent example with reasonable miles won't leave you much change for five grand these days.

And the thing is, five grand gets you a lot of barge. In fact, a later LS430 can be yours for similar money, and what it lacks in charm, with Merc-aping looks only its mother could love, it makes up for in gizmos. Not to mention extra oomph, with 282hp to the LS400's 253. This one's a touch on the leggy side, and cheap - or spend a bit more for something of a more collectable mileage.

Fancy spending your money on something similar, but different? Good news: there's plenty of serious barge to be had for this sort of cash. My first thoughts would turn to a Volkswagen Phaeton; prices for these have been bumping along the bottom for a while now, and show no sign of regaining their buoyancy anytime soon, so you've got time to find a good'n. Mind you, this one looks tidy, and while the V6 engine won't move mountains, it's less complex than either of the diesels so you stand a fig of a chance of it being more reliable.

Having said that, I wonder whether your money wouldn't be better spent on an elderly A8. Surprisingly, A8 values actually seem to sit a smidge below those of the Phaeton, possibly because of the VW's comparative rarity. £4,950, therefore, buys you this 3.7 Quattro Sport, with all the presence you could ever need, a vat of optional extras and even a very reasonable mileage. The only minor cause for concern is that the wood doesn't seem to match, which is unusual in an Audi and makes me wonder whether it's had a new dash somewhen, for some reason.

Perhaps you'd be better off with a solid old Merc, then. I started off looking for S-Classes equivalent in age and spec to the above, but my head was turned sharpish by this cracking-looking W140, going cheap in a fire sale due to the dealer's closing down. The colour combination won't be to everyone's tastes (I love it, personally) but the mileage and history will be, and at this price, it feels like a bit of a steal. It's older than everything else here, for sure - but it's also from the era before Merc's famed robustness started to go to pot, and that has to be worth something.

It's the one I'd buy of everything here. Well, it would be if someone hadn't just pointed this Citroen C6 out to me. Granted, it can't quite match the other cars here for quality, but sod it, it's a C6, and it's been on my want list since the day I first saw one. You might feel differently, but frankly, you're wrong. Sorry. Mind you, the MOT's short on this one, and there's no mention of service history, so perhaps a better bet would be to spend a bit more on this fabulously presidential Exclusive and have done with it. But then I suppose that opens you up to a new budget of £7,000-ish - and there's all manner of bargery to be had for that...

P.H. O'meter

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